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Pads and Tampons

A Girl's Guide to Pads and Tampons



What are pads and tampons?
How do pads work?
Are there different kinds of pads?
How do I use pads?
How do I get rid of a pad?
Where can I get pads?
Can people tell that I'm wearing a pad?
How do tampons work?
Are there different kinds of tampons?
How do I put in a tampon?
How often should I change a tampon?
How do I take a tampon out?
What if I can't find the tampon string?
Can a tampon get lost inside me?
What if I can't find the tampon I put in?
Where can I get tampons?
Can I use tampons if I am a virgin?
What is toxic shock syndrome?


What are pads and tampons?
You use pads and tampons to keep your clothes and underwear from getting ruined during your period. These products collect the blood and protect your clothes.

Did you know that the blood from your period only amounts to a few teaspoons? After all the pads and tampons a girl uses each month, you'd think it was a lot more! back to top

How do pads work?
Pads are made of layers of absorbent material that collect the blood flow. You usually wear them attached to your underwear. Pads are also called sanitary napkins. Most pads are made with a sticky back so you can simply stick them to your underwear. back to top

Are there different kinds of pads?
Pads come in a lot of different sizes, shapes, and absorbencies:
  • Size. Pads come in several sizes for different needs. Small thin pads (also called panty liners) are designed to be worn on your days of lightest flow. Extra-long, thick pads give you more protection from leaks in front of or behind the pad.
  • Shape. Many pads are rectangles, but there are lots of other shapes. Some pads are shaped like an hourglass. Other pads have "wings" to prevent leaks on the sides of the pads. Shape is just a matter of preference. You can try different shapes and decide which ones you like best. The best one for you is the one that's most comfortable and gives you the best protection.
  • Absorbency. This indicates how much liquid a pad can hold. On the days when you have a heavy blood flow you'll want to use more absorbent pads. These pads are often labeled "super" or "super-plus". There are other pads designed for the days when you have a lighter flow. Thicker pads are usually more absorbent. But some thin pads are very absorbent because they're made of special materials. back to top
How do I use pads?
Pads are easy to use. You just peel off the paper from the back and put the sticky side down on the inside of your underpants. You replace the pad with a new one each time you use the bathroom or if the pad feels very wet.

Many girls use different pads on different days. They might use larger, more absorbent pads for days when their periods are heavier, and thinner, smaller pads for the lighter flow days, like those at the end of their periods. back to top

How do I get rid of a pad?
When it's time to change your pad, here's what you do:
  • Remove it by pulling it off your underwear.
  • Roll it up with the dirty side in. When you do this, the sticky stuff will keep the pad rolled up in a ball.
  • Wrap the whole pad in toilet paper.
  • Throw it in the trash. Don't flush a pad down the toilet because it'll clog up the toilet and make it overflow. back to top
Where can I get pads?
You can buy pads at any drugstore or supermarket. back to top

Can people tell that I'm wearing a pad?
Most of the time, pads aren't noticeable. They may feel strange to you, but only you know that you're wearing one. You can also buy pads that are very thin, but still absorb a lot of fluid. If you feel strange wearing a very thick pad on your heavy-flow days, try one of the thin pads that absorb a lot.

You may also want to think about wearing looser fitting clothes on the days that you have your period and are wearing a pad. The bulkiness of a pad may show more with tighter clothes. back to top

Important Things to Know About Tampons
  • Using tampons won't take away your virginity. So you are still a virgin even if you use tampons.
  • The applicator is not supposed to be left inside your vagina. Pull it out after you get the tampon inserted correctly. The tampon is in right if you can't feel it.
  • A tampon can't swim around inside you and get lost. It stays in your vagina.
  • Don't leave a tampon in for more than 4 to 6 hours. Try to change it every time you go to the bathroom.

How do tampons work?
Tampons are small sticks of absorbent material that you put inside your vagina. Tampons collect the blood from your period before it can get outside your body. As the tampon gets wet, it expands to fill your vagina and blocks off any leaks. Many girls like tampons because you can't feel them when you're wearing them, and you can practically forget that you're having your period, which is never a bad thing! back to top

Are there different kinds of tampons?
All tampons are the same basic size and shape. Super and super-plus tampons are designed for your days of heaviest flow. They tend to be thicker because they're made with more absorbent material. All tampons have a string attached. The string hangs outside your vagina. You take out the tampon by pulling on the string.

Many women use different tampons on different days. Some tampons come in packages with ones for light days and ones for heavy days. back to top

How do I put in a tampon?
Most tampons come with applicators. The tampon sits inside a cardboard or plastic tube that's about twice as long as the tampon itself. The tampon is at the top end of the applicator, and the string falls through the bottom end. The applicator is made of two pieces. When you push the bottom piece up, the tampon comes out the top. Tampons are individually wrapped in paper.

Here are the steps to putting in a tampon:
  • Sit on the toilet with your legs spread. Or you can stand and raise one leg to rest it on a toilet or bathtub.
  • Remove the tampon from the wrapper.
  • Put the applicator into your vagina. The tampon is on top and the string is hanging out the bottom. Slide the applicator into your vagina a little more than halfway. You want the tampon to end up at the top of your vagina, not at the bottom near the outside.
  • When the applicator is in the right position, push the bottom part of it into the top part. This pushes the tampon out the top of the applicator and into your vagina. Gently pull the applicator out of your vagina, letting the tampon string hang down outside your body. The applicator is not supposed to be left inside your vagina. Throw the applicator into the trash. Don't flush it down the toilet because it can clog the toilet.
Almost all tampons have applicators, but there are some that don't. You put in a tampon without an applicator by inserting it deep into your vagina with your fingers.

It does feel funny the first few times you use tampons. It may take a bit of practice to decide how far in you should put the applicator. You know you've done it right when you can't feel the tampon in place. back to top

How often should I change a tampon?
You should change your tampon every time you use the bathroom or if it starts to leak. Don't leave a tampon in for more than 4 to 6 hours. back to top

How do I take a tampon out?
It's easy. Pull slightly upward on the string and pull it out. You can then wrap it in toilet paper and throw it in the trash. In many public restrooms and private houses, you can't flush a tampon down the toilet because it will clog the toilet and cause it to overflow. It's better to play it safe and always throw the tampon in the trash. back to top

What if I can't find the tampon string?
If you can't find the string, you can still get the tampon out. Just put your fingers into your vagina, grasp the bottom edge of the tampon and tug on it gently to pull it out. back to top

Can a tampon get lost inside me?
A tampon will never get lost. It's always just in your vagina. It won't travel to another part of your body. back to top

What if I can't find the tampon I put in?
If you're really afraid the tampon is stuck, or is so far up your vagina that you can't reach it, call your health professional. He or she can remove the tampon for you. back to top

Where can I get tampons?
You can buy tampons at any drugstore or supermarket. back to top

Can I use tampons if I am a virgin?
Yes, you can use tampons if you're a virgin. Although your vaginal opening may be partly covered by the hymen, there will be enough room for a tampon. You can only lose your virginity by having sexual intercourse.

Tampons come in different sizes. Try one labeled "slim" or one that says it's for teenagers. They tend to be thinner and may feel more comfortable inside you. back to top

What is toxic shock syndrome?
Toxic shock syndrome is an illness that can be related to using tampons. A tampon in your vagina is warm and filled with bloody fluid. It's the perfect place for bacteria to grow. If you don't change your tampon every 4 to 6 hours, it can become a breeding place for the bacteria that cause toxic shock syndrome.

Toxic shock syndrome is rare, but it's smart to do these things to help prevent you from getting it:
  • Don't use super-plus tampons unless you have unusually heavy flow.
  • Try to use pads at night instead of tampons.
  • Change your tampons about every 4 to 6 hours. back to top
Last Modified Date: 3/27/2001
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